HOW OLD is too old? Or, to put it another way, are we really all past our sell-by dates once we hit 50?
The Government has done its bit with the recently introduced Employment Equality (Age) Regulations, making it illegal to discriminate against employees or would-be employees on the grounds of age. But are bosses, in education as elsewhere, really going to take any notice? If they don't like your wrinkles, won't they just pat you on the head with a "Sorry, old chap, but one of the other candidates just happened to be better"?
Someone, I decided, had to put it to the test. And that someone turned out to be me.
At this stage, I'd better declare my credentials. My earliest memory is of Elizabeth's coronation - that's Elizabeth II, by the way - a tedious, monochrome affair on a tiny screen, which turned the 4-year-old me into the republican I am today. In the late 1960s I came of age, though Mick Jagger is, of course, much older than me. Bizarrely, I was once mistaken for him, although I think the drunken woman concerned probably meant Charlie Watts, which, while less flattering, is infinitely more plausible.
But to business. The advertised job was what is sometimes called "stepping down". A half-time position, but one in my area - return-to-learn adult education - and without the quasi-managerial and admin tasks I currently shoulder. Carefully I filled out the application.
It is illegal for them to ask for your age now, but harping on for too long about your "experience" could be a dead give away. When it came to the part about new technology, I took particular care not to mention the horseless carriage, crystal sets with valves or wireless telegraphy.
A week or so later, an offer of an interview dropped through the letterbox.
Now came the real crunch: presentation of wrinkled self. Should I try and pass myself off as a 39-year-old with a lived-in face? Somehow I didn't think they'd buy that one. But what about the Botox route? That could be tricky too: instead of Charlie Watts, I might end up looking like Cliff Richard. Worse, I might end up singing like him. There was nothing else for it. I would have to go as the 57-year-old me.
The night before, as I played "spot the question", I remembered the feedback I was given some years back after my last interview: good content, but too laid back. OK, so forget being 57, just concentrate on being dynamic.
I prepared for being dynamic in my usual way: waking up at 3.30am utterly convinced I was never, ever going to get back to sleep. But once at the interview, I woke up fully and did my stuff. Miraculously I'd guessed all the questions. Glory be, I even remembered the answers.
Did I get the job? Did I hell! But while I'm sure that whoever did was the better candidate, I'd bet a half crown to a farthing that he or she couldn't remember the Coronation.